Former top Russian and European diplomats are asking their countries’ leaders to ramp up cooperation, not eschew it, to resolve a major rift over Ukraine.
Recalling “basic lessons of crisis-management learned during the Cold War,” the group of elder statesmen made their plea in a position paper released Thursday by the European Leadership Network and other think tanks.
Among the documents’ signatories are notable Russian figures, including former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and the Kremlin’s foreign-intelligence chief, retired Gen. Vyacheslav Trubnikov. European signatories include past foreign and defense ministers of Poland, the United Kingdom, Spain and France.
Their paper comes as a conflict over Ukraine between Russia on the one side and Europe and the United States on the other threatens to spiral out of control. Western officials suspect Russia of propping up pro-Moscow separatists in the eastern part of the country, purposefully destabilizing Ukraine. Many Russians see the conflict as a must-win battle against Western efforts to encroach on their borders.
The recent downing in Ukrainian air space of a civilian passenger jet, which killed nearly 300, has further stoked tensions as a search for the perpetrators unfolds.
For starters, the position paper proposes that all sides emphasize restraint to their respective military chains of command. In addition, mechanisms for dispute resolution must be strengthened, the document recommends.
“The NATO-Russia Council has barely met since the crisis in Ukraine erupted,” the former officials lament. “E.U.-Russia crisis management arrangements also do not exist.”
They also warn that strictly unilateral measures, such as a Russian invasion into Ukraine or tough European sanctions against Moscow, likely would backfire rather than resolve the conflict.
What We're Following See More »
The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House this morning by a 375-34 vote. The bill, which heads to the Senate next week for final consideration, would fund the military to the tune of $618.7 billion, "about $3.2 billion more than the president requested for fiscal 2017. ... The White House has issued a veto threat on both the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill, but has not yet said if it will sign the compromise bill released by the conference committee this week."
"Republicans have elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) the next chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden defeated Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Joe Barton (R-TX), the former committee chairman, in the race for the gavel" to succeed Michgan's Fred Upton.
"Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working on legislation that would limit deportations" under President-elect Donald Trump. Leading the effort are Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is also expected to sign on.
Donald Trump has selected retired Marine Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis as his secretary of defense, according to The Washington Post. Mattis retired from active duty just four years ago, so Congress will have "to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law that states secretaries of defense must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years." The official announcement is likely to come next week.